Jailed charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe suspected of having coronavirus in Iranian prison
Mother-of-one appeals for medication as she suffers from 'continual cold sweat'
29 February, 2020
A CHARITY worker locked up in Iran on vague spying charges is believed to have caught coronavirus, her supporters said today (Saturday).
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, who is at the centre of an international campaign to secure her release and bring her home to West Hampstead, has been held since 2016 when she was stopped at an airport in Tehran coming back from a family holiday. There have been reports that an outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in Iran had reached the Evin jail where she is being held, although prisoners are not being tested
In a statement released today (Saturday), she said: “I am not good. I feel very bad in fact. It is a strange cold. Not like usual. I know the kinds of cold I normally have, how my body reacts. This is different. I am just as bad as I was. I often get better after three days. But with this there is no improvement. I haven’t got one bit better. I have this continual cold sweat, I have a temperature, though not all the time. I have difficulty breathing and pain in my muscles, and fatigue. I do not pant, but I am finding it hard to breathe.”
She added, in the message released by the Free Nazanin campaign: “For a long time this has not felt like a normal cold. These symptoms have lasted almost a week. I know I need to get medicine to get better. This does not go magically.”
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard held a hunger strike protest outside the Iranian embassy last year
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has always maintained she was visiting grandparents but she was convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime in what Amnesty International has said were trumped-up charges. The now prime minister Boris Johnson was accused of making the situation worse when he told a parliamentary committee that she had been training journalists during his time as foreign secretary.
Mz Zaghari-Ratcliffe was split up from her daughter Gabriella on her arrest. The girl stayed with her grandparents before flying back to start school in London last year.
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has repeatedly raised the case in the House of Commons, including an intervention in October when she compared the case with how other countries were dealing with Iran. Australia was able to negotiate the high-profile release of a British-Australian woman, Jolie King, last year.
“My constituent has now been imprisoned for three-and -a-half years, during which she’s been in solitary confinement, she’s been chained to her bed and shackled, she’s been through depression, she’s been suicidal, she’s been on hunger strike and they found lumps on her breast,” Ms Siddiq told MPs. “And amongst all of this one of her biggest traumas is the changing of fortunes of her fellow prisoners. Prisoners will come in, she will become close to them, and they will leave and go home, but she remains in prison.”
Tonight (Saturday), Ms Siddiq said she was “very concerned” by reports that she was now struggling with coronavirus. There have been conflicting reports of how many people have died from the virus in Iran, although one said as many as 210 have passed away. The Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow said earlier in the week that he was self-isolating at his home in Primrose Hill due to medical guidance for people returning from the country. He had been covering elections there and said he now faced 14 days in his flat.
In the United Kingdom, there have been 23 positive tests for coronavirus with three more confirmed earlier today. Two of the patients had recently returned from Italy, where an outbreak has hit northern regions, while the third had recently traveled from Asia. Some patients are being treated at a specialist unit at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.
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Thomson Reuters, Ms Zaghari-Ratclifffe’s employers, said in a statement: “The Free Nazanin Campaign confirmed today that it believes Nazanin has contracted Coronavirus inside Evin Prison, in large part due to the lack of hygiene materials made available to the prisoners. The wider suppression of the virus inside Evin prison and the refusal to test Nazanin, as well as other prisoners displaying severe Coronavirus symptoms, is deeply concerning and utterly inhumane.”
“It represents another dark chapter in the unimaginable ordeal that Nazanin and her family have endured since April 2016. We urge the UK Government to unabashedly push for Nazanin to be tested immediately and treated properly, in accordance with both her basic human rights and diplomatic protection as a British citizen.”